Study Guide

Herzog Pride

By Saul Bellow

Pride

His achievements were not only scholarly but sexual. And were those achievements? It was his pride that must be satisfied. His flesh got what was left over. (1.66)

Herzog knows that whether it's career or sex, everything he does is meant to satisfy his pride. Sure, he gets physical pleasure from sex, but that's only secondary to the pride he feels when he looks at sex as an achievement or a goal.

"You know you're a good-looking man. And you even take pride in being one. In Argentina they'd call you macho—masculine." (1.97)

There's no point in Herzog trying to pretend he's modest. Ramona can see right through him, and she knows that he takes way more pride in being attractive than he'd ever let on.

He remembered how much pleasure it gave Madeleine to try on clothes in shops and how much heart and pride there was in her when she looked at herself, touching, adjusting, her face glowing but severe, too, with the great blue eyes, the vivid bangs, the medallion profile. (1.134)

If Madeleine has one defining feature in Herzog's mind, it's her pride. But it's tough to know how much of this is the real Madeleine and how much is just Herzog projecting onto her. After all, Herzog's a pretty proud guy himself. It wouldn't be crazy to think that he's projecting all his own baggage onto the woman who hurt him.

Condition! [Shapiro] had ulcers. Vanity kept him from saying it; the psychosomatic implications were unflattering. (3.29)

Shapiro doesn't want people to know that he has ulcers because having ulcers would mean that his stress is getting to him. The guy is too proud to admit that he has any weakness, whether it's physical or mental.

Wrestling with that old ruin in an effort to recover his legacy made his arms muscular. Extended the lease of narcissism a little while. (5.71)

Herzog knows he's getting older and that his physical prime is well behind him. But he still gets pleasure out of working on his old house and thinking he's still a strong man.

I am certain that there are human qualities still to be discovered. Such discovery is only hampered by definitions which hold mankind down at the level of pride (or masochism), asserting too much and then suffering from self-hatred as a consequence. (5.95)

Herzog knows that there are all kinds of new things for humanity to discover. The problem is that pride and stubbornness keep people from seeing the world in new ways, which ends up ruining their ability to innovate.

"The pride of the peacock, the lust of the goat, and the wrath of the lion are the glory and wisdom of God." (5.209)

Sono Oguki is convinced that a fair amount of pride is a natural (and good) thing for men to have. Lots of people would argue that modesty is a good thing, but for Sono, this goes against masculine nature.

He thought what a fine achievement he had made of his life that—aging, vain, terribly narcissistic, suffering without proper dignity—he was taking comfort from someone who really didn't have too much of it to spare him. (5.322)

Herzog feels pathetic for having to turn to Ramona for comfort, even though Ramona seems like a perfect fit for him. When he's emotionally wounded, his instinct is to be alone because he wants to prove how independent he is. But the truth is that he feels way better when he just gives in and lets Ramona love him.

"And I apparently believe that if the child does not have a life resembling mine, educated according to the Herzog standards of "hearth," and all the rest of it, she will fail to become a human being. (7.105)

Herzog knows that his concern for June's upbringing is based completely on his sense of pride. Deep down, he thinks that June won't turn into a good person unless he's there to guide her, as though no other parent in the world ever raised a good child without the help of Moses E. Herzog.

Problems connected with the increasing mental emancipation of untrained unemployables. (5.142).

When Herzog looks at a bunch of defaced street posters, he thinks about how juvenile and proud the young vandals who ruined them must be. In his mind, the real problem is that society is giving too much freedom and respect to proud, stupid, and young jerks that don't deserve it.

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